Scottsdale long snapper overcomes long odds

Dallas Noriega’s winding path has led him from Arizona to Alabama


Courtesy of Dru Bloomfield

Noriega played his high school football here, at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Kara Brown, Freelance Reporter,

It started with a dream and a simple path to get there, but as Dallas Noriega grew up, the path towards playing professional football sprouted a few detours.

Upon starting his rookie year this fall playing for the Alabama Airborne in Major League Football, Noriega reflected on the journey that brought him there.

“I have been going through adversity my whole life when it comes to football,” Noriega said. “Breaking bones, getting hurt, mediocre grades, colleges turning me down and more has made me the athlete I am today.”

The Beginning

Noriega moved to Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School in 2008 where he played as an offensive center, defensive nose tackle and long snapper as a sophomore.

It was his first time wearing black and gold. The stands were packed. The field was lit.

Noriega, starting his first game at Saguaro, was eager for what was in store for him.

The game he looked forward to ended with a broken ankle, taking him out for the rest of the season.

Through trial and tribulation, Noriega came back for his junior year, contributing to Saguaro’s impressive 35-0 record that came to an end against Tucson’s Canyon del Oro in a semi-final game, costing them a spot in the 2009 State Championship.

In 2010 the rivalry against Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School was put on hold. CDO – and its star running back Ka’Deem Carey – had become the newest adversary for Saguaro football.

“Senior year was my most passionate year,” Noriega said. “Going through long days of training with a common goal of beating CDO brings you closer as a team. You become a family and it truly is something special.”

Noriega helped bring his team a famous victory in 2010, as the Sabercats reclaimed the state championship from CDO with a 41-34 win. It was the first of two state titles Noriega won at Saguaro.

“I will never forget the feeling of defeating Ka’Deem Carey and Canyon del Oro,” Noriega said. “It’s my favorite high school memory.”

College Ball

Noriega’s commitment to Arizona State University broke off due to his grades. In order to play for a Division I school in the future, he needed to get his Associate’s degree. He went on to attend Scottsdale Community College where he played football for two years.

By then, Arizona State had already picked up a long snapper and punter, which meant Noriega was out of the running. With no future plans, Noriega played it all by ear.

While sitting in his math class at SCC, Noriega received unexpected news from his coach about an offer to snap for two NFL kickers during an open practice. Noriega accepted the invitation, not knowing what to expect.

“Little did I know that the coach knew of a school that was in desperate need of a long snapper,” Noriega said. “After I was snapping and everything was done he pulled me aside and said ‘how would you like to play at the University of Alabama, Birmingham?’ I knew nothing of this school until I looked it up that night.”

The next day, Noriega accepted his full ride to the D-I school – a place he had worked years to get to.

“After my two years at UAB it was such an amazing experience and I am so thankful for the coaching staff who pushed me everyday to be better than I was the day before,” Noriega said.

In 2014, Noriega’s senior season, the UAB Blazers were bowl eligible for the first time since 2004. However, Noriega was unable to play that bowl game – not because of injury, but because UAB was to shut down its football program for the “greater good.”

Noriega, passionate about his program, helped in the fight to bring football back to UAB.

“Money had nothing to do with it,” Noriega said. “It was all politics and corrupted by the Board of Trustees.”

The players and coaches fought to bring back what they believed in and loved so much.

“We built the program from ground zero and they will have to do it all over again,” Noriega said.

The campaigning and hard work paid off. In July, UAB announced that the football program would be reinstated for the 2017 season.

New Dream

Noriega credits his success to the D-I school.

“UAB has given me tremendous opportunities such as getting to workout with the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins,” Noriega said.

Noriega will return to his college town of Birmingham, Alabama playing Major League Football in the fall of 2016. Looking back on it all, the humble player feels blessed about his journey.

“Every athlete has a different path way to get where they want to be. It’s not easy, if it were then everyone would be doing it,” Noriega said. “I love my unique journey.”

As for his loved ones back home in Scottsdale, everyone is wishing Noriega nothing but the best.

Devon Clark, Noriega’s best friend of nine years, has enjoyed watching him grow throughout the years.

“I have felt proud and excited every step of the way,” Clark said. “I know how much he wanted this and how hard he has worked for this moment. It’s a big accomplishment.”

Frank Ruben, Saguaro coach for 13 years, is proud to see his former player represent the Sabercats at the next level.

“He was a great example of a phrase I like to use regarding one’s commitment and motivation: ‘Champions are made when no one is watching,’” Ruben said. “That sums up Dallas Noriega.”

Editor’s note: Since this story was filed, Major League Football announced that due to a lack of financial investment the 2016 season would be canceled and treated as a “development” season. You can read the full story here.